This Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and with this massive celebration comes the incredible push from Irish drink brands Guinness and Jameson. Yet for some reason, even though these products stand on their own merits, why don’t we see the same press all year long?
It’s funny…Irish adult beverages seem to enter America’s drinking equation and then disappear from our sights, but yet I read that the Irish whiskey category is growing at the insane rate of 20% per year over the last 20 years! According to Euromonitor International, a drinks research company, they expect north of ten million cases sold globally in 2021, with the United States making up about 40% of that figure. Ireland also went from having just three distilleries thirty years ago to 29 today, with many of those being built within the last five years. Many new brands have been introduced just within the last two years. All of these data adds up to something that I believe to be true: you need Irish whiskey year-round.
The thing I enjoy about Irish whiskey is that there is no uniform style; consumers have a lot of choice at their disposal and different brands can suit different occasions. Want a cocktail? J.J. Corry and Roe & Co. are 90 proof and above to stand up to other ingredients. Is it a cold night? Redbreast’s Cask Strength (110 proof) or Lustau Sherry Finish will warm you up with complex flavor profiles. Looking for something light and gentle when it’s a warm day? The grain-led Tullamore DEW Original is a great choice. Want something with a creamy, full-bodied texture? Green Spot Whiskey will do the trick. Want to introduce someone to Irish whiskey for the first time? Look no further than Writer’s Tears Copper Pot. How about something that’s just different? Slane Tripled Casked whiskey includes Jack Daniel’s casks in its barrel program. The possibilities are endless and deserve the same love that Scotch, Bourbon, and even Japanese whisky has been receiving.
I just wrapped up an Irish whiskey class last night and it was fun to taste the six whiskeys pictured above. There’s definitely something for everyone in the lineup, whether you are looking for traditional or modern expressions. Pick something that interests you, then make sure it doesn’t gather dust from March 18th, 2019 to March 16th, 2020.
Roe & Co. Blended Irish Whiskey ($31): This new brand from Diageo came about after the Guinness Power House was taken over; a distillery will be completed any day now, so for now Roe & Co. sources malt and grain whiskeys to make this blend. Fruity and creamy on the palate and floral/piney notes on the nose. Gently warming with a touch of malty sweetness on the finish.
Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey ($34): Slane whiskey was created on the site of Slane Castle, converting the stables to the distillery. While waiting for their own stocks to mature, malt and grain whiskeys aged in virgin American oak, Jack Daniel’s cask, and Oloroso Sherry cask were selected and blended. The result is a whiskey with brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and a touch of dried figs. The finish is on the drier side despite all of these sweet flavors.
J.J. Corry “The Gael” Irish Whiskey ($70): Chapel Gate Whiskey released this as a tribute to the whiskey bonder J.J. Corry, who also traded tea, rum, and Bordeaux wine as an important figure in Ireland’s economy. NAmed after a bicycle Corry invented, The Gael is made up of 40% young grain whiskey, 55% malt whiskey, and 5% sherried malt whiskey. This is initially fiery, but once the heat subsides the herbaceousness (cilantro, parsley), grapefruit, beeswax and peppery spices start to come through. Very lively and benefits further when served cooler to allow the aromas to pop.
Writer’s Tears Copper Pot ($41): This release from Walsh Whiskey, who initially started in the coffee and Irish cream trade, is made with no grain whiskey at all. This is a blend of malt and pot still whiskey aged in Bourbon casks. Apple and pear flavors, with a soft, creamy texture. It is almost like drinking apple pie without a sticky sweet finish.
Green Spot Irish Whiskey ($57): Mitchell & Son was the last one standing before being swallowed up by the Irish Distillers juggernaut, but the Spot Whiskey brand name was retained and released as its own series. The Green Spot is made up of 7-10 year old pot still whiskey aged in a mix of Bourbon and Sherry casks. The result is a smooth, luxurious texture, gentle but complex on the nose. Fruity and spicy on the finish, this welcoming whiskey is beautiful when sipped neat.
Redbreast Lustau Finish Irish Whiskey ($75): Redbreast’s whiskeys are always creamy, yet lively thanks to the use of pure pot still whiskey. 9-12 years in a mix of Bourbon and Sherry casks, followed by another year in Oloroso casks. This is a rich, deeply-flavored whiskey; the addition of water makes a berry note pop from the glass and complements the dried figs, dates, and sweet spices (anise being of particular note).